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A Spark To Tear A Nation Asunder

Chapters: 14 Pages: 69 Word Count: 16,926 Genre: Science Fiction/Political Drama/War Story

Major Samantha Wethermain has only wanted one thing: to serve the nation she loves. However, as civil war comes to the United States and her mother turns out to be the leader of the rebellion, Samantha faces a dilemma: does she uphold her oath, or does she join her mother in treason? Find out in the story that reveals how the Second American Civil War began.

Chapter 1: Dreaming of A Life That Never Will Be

Heather felt like she had awoken in a dream. With her hand clasping her husband’s, they strolled towards the beach. The morning’s sun illuminated the path they took from their villa to the coast. Seagulls chirped, their silhouettes visible high over the ocean. A breeze blew across Heather’s back, causing her bare skin to tingle and a smile to form.

Heather looked up at the horizon, noting how the sun’s light mingled with the sky to create a pallet of reds, yellows, and oranges. Blissful. Serene.

“Every night I thought of you and Samantha,” Henry said. “Held you in my heart. Held onto the hope that this war would end, and that I would see you both again.”

“There there,” Heather comforted Henry. “The war is over. We’re together.”

Henry turned and stroked her chin. “And now I must leave you again.”

“No. You just came back to me. Don’t go. I can’t live without you.”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I must. The war is over, and we lost.” Henry released his grip and headed towards the rising sun and the horizon beyond.

Heather tried to follow, but the landscaped changed, with a wire fence now barding her path. Beyond it stood an Arabian city. It laid beside a desert. Missiles rose from concealed silos, their wails competing with the cries of sirens. Henry vanished within the dust clouds created by their launches, the sand obscuring Heather’s vision as the cloud rolled past her.

When they cleared, Henry appeared again and waved. Heather clenched the fence and screamed, “Come back. Don’t leave me. I can’t live without you.”

“I love you,” he said, then made his way towards a tower off in the distance.

Heather cried, only to stop when a light engulfed the tower. It shined like a supernova. Not even her hands could shield her from it. Eventually, it faded, and Heather peeked, her reward the sight of a mushroom cloud enveloping the city. More formed as…

California Vice Governor Wethermain awoke in a long chair in the backyard, while a golden retriever shoved a Frisbee in her face.

“Yes, yes. Here you go.” She took the Frisbee and tossed it across the lawn.

Frank ran after it, freeing Heather to reach for the martini that rested on the stand beside her. She took a sip, then went for a cigarette and a lighter.

“You shouldn’t be indulging in that habit,” her assistant Rebecca said as she approached Heather, a binder in hand. “You’re a role model to millions of girls.”

“Oh, give me a break. I’m the vice governor of a state, not the fuckin’ President.”

“You should still try to set an example.”

Heather lit the cigarette and took a puff. “Why? America has gone to shit. Really doesn’t matter what anyone does anymore. We’re all screwed.”

Rebecca shook her head, then placed the binder on the table. “Don’t say that.”

Heather frowned. “Why not? The Middle East is gone. The economy is in shambles, our allies hate us, and what do we have to show for it? A bunch of stupid MAGA hats. Oh wait, we don’t even have those. They were made in China, and the Chinese aren’t exactly trading with us these days. Don’t blame them. Who would want to invest in this shithole of a country.”

“Things aren’t all bad. America can still make a comeback. We just have to hold onto hope.”

“Hope? Really? Let’s see what cheery news we can look forward to today.” Heather grabbed the remote and turned on the large monitor that stood across the patio.

Images flashed over it: police hosing down rioters, the crowd driven into a frenzy because of the rise of food prices. Heather tapped the remote and was rewarded with talk of Hurricane Maranda. Thousands had died in Florida, not just because Maranda was bad, and it was, a category five, yet more irrefutable evidence that climate change was real, but because the state was broke and couldn’t afford the rescue helicopters critical to saving lives.

A third click and Governor Philip Brownback appeared, the dwarfish man standing in front of a large crowd under the California sun. “President Wellman says that we must give up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Why? So that he can pay back foreign bankers. Do you believe this guy? He calls himself a Democrat. A Democrat? LBJ must be spinning in his grave. He says that we must take on one-ninth of the military. Why? So that he can balance the budget.

“Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t vote for him so that he could fleece me of every nickel and dime. The good citizens of California did not get us into this mess. Washington did, and we refuse to dig it out. That’s why as of today I’m stopping all payments to the federal government and will not resume until our demands are met. For a better California!”

“Ah, another brilliant stratagem by our esteem governor,” Heather proclaimed. “One problem. The real money is in payroll taxes, and he can’t touch those.”

“He’s trying something. You should be out there providing your input.”

“Why? No one cares what I have to say.”

“Sure, they do. You’re more beloved than you realize.”

“No, they loved my husband. But Henry had to go and get himself killed alongside millions of Arabs and Jews.” Heather brought the cigarette to her lips.

“We all miss the general, but he’s gone. We lost. We must move on.”

“Yeah. We lost, though not as much as those living in the Middle East, and the whole world blames us for it. Well, I guess the Saudis got their revenge.”

“We can’t worry about that. We need to focus on rebuilding America.”

“Don’t bother.” Heather lowered her cigarette. “We Californians should just secede.”

Rebecca gasped. “From the United States? You’re not serious, are you?”

“America’s dead. Everyone knows it. Trump and Pence drove it to the ground. So did Obama and Bush. Why drag a dead horse?”

***

Major Samantha Wethermain sat in the terminal at Luxembourg-Findel International. Her cell phone rested on her lap, its screen displaying her electronic ticket. Just thinking about the five hundred dollars it cost her to return from deployment made her bristle. She shook her head. “I know Uncle Sam is short on change but is a ticket home too much to ask?"

The speakers crackled. “Flight 228 to Huston, Texas is now boarding.”

Samantha got up, grabbed her duffle bag, and made her way to the line. She showed her cell phone and her passport before being allowed to board.

She entered the airplane and took a seat beside an elderly woman knitting a sweater.

“So, are you visiting America or returning?” the lady asked in a southern accent.

“Returning. I was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base.”

The lady frowned. “I thought they closed that base years ago.”

“No, just recently. Ramstein was our last military base overseas.”

“Well, there goes the empire,” the lady said bitterly. “When I was a kid, we Americans were not just powerful and respected. We were exceptional. Today, we’re just another nation among many.” She patted Samantha’s hand. “I don’t blame you, dearie. It was those godforsaken liberals. They lost us the War of the Sands. Didn’t support the war effort you see. Now the Middle East is a wasteland, and we Americans are nobodies. Losers.”

Samantha nodded. Many she knew held similar views. Maybe they were right.

The lady leaned in and added, “But don’t worry yourself. We’ll restore America, make it great again, just as Trump promised. Right after we rid ourselves of the vermin who ruined it.” Then she went back to knitting her sweater and humming a tune.

Samantha eyed the lady. Did others share her opinion, and if so, what did that mean?

Chapter 2: Mother and Daughter

Fourteen hours later, her airplane landed in Huston, and Samantha transferred to another, a domestic flight that took her to Sacramento, California. It was mid-day when she finally stepped out under the sun, the terminal before her seeming deserted compared to previous visits, with only a handful of people waiting in line to board their plane.

Samantha walked past a couple trying to remove their luggage from a taxi and approached the one stationed in front of it. “I need you to take me to Prairie Filed Drive.”

“Sure thing,” the driver replied. “Right after you hand over the $120 deposit?”

“A deposit fee?” Samantha grimaced. “When has there been a deposit fee to rent a taxi?”

“Since the price of oil got to $15 a gallon and people started refusing to pay the fare because they thought they were being ripped off.”

“How much is a fare to Prairie Filed Drive going to cost me?”

“Let’s put it this way, sweetheart: odds are the deposit isn’t going to cut it.”

“Well, if it is going to cost me that much, I think I’ll find myself another cab.”

The guy shrugged. “Go ahead. They’ll charge you similar rates. Everything costs triple these days, not just the price of gas. A gallon of milk will cost you $11 and a loaf of bread 9. Blame the Saudis for blowing up the Middle East or the other nations for sanctioning the fuck out of us or Congress for defaulting on the national debt and tanking the world economy.”

Samantha eyed the cab’s meter, not eager to call her mother to ask her to send the family limo. She sighed and removed her credit card. “Hit me.”

The man scanned her card with his reader and helped her get her luggage in. Soon, they were driving south down the 519B towards the city’s center.

Samantha eyed the landscape, again, noting how empty the place seemed. The roads should be congested with traffic. Instead, only a few dozen vehicles occupied the highway, mostly self-driving sixteen wheelers, which were easy to distinguish from their manned counterparts by the lack of windows. They moved with inhuman precision, each the same distance from each other. What became of their drivers? Were they unemployed? Homeless?

Samantha turned to her driver and pondered: how long before a robot replaced him?

Construction on the highway forced them to make a detour. The taxi veered left onto a commercial district. It surprised Samantha the number of closed or for sale signs that hung from windows. Trash cans cluttered curbs, the amount making her wonder when the last garbage truck had visited. Vagrants and dogs sifted through them for food.

Samantha shook her head. “I didn’t realize that things had gotten this bad.”

“Six years of crippling sanctions will do that,” the driver said. “They say the sanctions have been lifted, but if they have, they’re not making a difference.”

“The rest of the world has more or less recovered from the War of the Sands.”

“Just not us.” He exhaled. “I don’t blame the others for slapping sanctions. We did sell the Saudis those nukes. Bit us in the ass, didn’t they?”

Samantha nodded. A lot of moronic mistakes were made during those dark days, and yet she didn’t want to dwell on them. The past was the past. America had screwed up big time, but what concerned her was how it was going to pick itself up.

The two did not speak for the rest of the drive. Afterward, Samantha paid the man an additional twelve fifty and got out. Before her, her childhood home loomed as large and as magnificent as she remembered. “Well, I guess some things never change.”

Samantha walked through the front door and realized that her previous statement was inaccurate. She scanned the atrium, growing distress.

“Where… where have all the photos of Dad gone?” she cried.

“They’re in the addict with the rest of the useless junk.”

Samantha followed the voice to the living room. Her mother, Vice Governor Heather Wethermain, laid on her favorite sofa with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other, their pet golden retriever Frank resting beside her

“Mother, you’re drunk,” Samantha noted as she lowered her duffle bag.

Heather raised the bottle. “It’s the weekend. I might have had” – hiccup – “a glass or two.”

Samantha marched over and yanked the bottle away. “Get up!”

“And why should I? I’m quite comfortable, thank you very much.”

“Why did you remove the portraits of Dad?”

“Your father’s dead, or didn’t you hear? Died in the desert with all the Israelis and Arabs.”

“You should’ve asked me before removing them. Now take a shower and make yourself presentable. I was hoping we’d go out for dinner, but not as you look now.”

Samantha grabbed Frank by the collar and led him outside to run in the backyard. The dog chased a squirrel up a nearby aspen and barked at it.

Overcome with a sense of melancholy, she leaned against a railing and brooded.

Rick Nickle, her mother’s head of security, joined her. “I heard you two getting into an argument. I’m guessing it was over your father’s portraits.”

“Dad’s been dead for six years. Why did she remove them all of a sudden?”

Rick sighed. “She’s been under a lot of stress lately, and truth be told, she has never fully gotten over his death. Probably never will.”

“That’s no excuse. She’s the vice governor of a state for crying out loud.”

“Your mother’s not the first politician to nurse the bottle. Winston Churchill was known—”

“Churchill led Great Britain against the Nazis. What has Mom ever done?”

“Don’t be too hard on her. She means well. She truly does.”

“Why do you even put up with her?”

“Well, it’s my job to watch over your mother.”

Samantha eyed him. “That’s not why you stay. You know she’ll never love you.”

Rick slumped. “Even in death, I am just an ember to your father’s flame. I get that. Still, I will not leave your mother’s side, especially when she needs me the most.”

Samantha shook her head, disgusted, and walked away. She headed for the addict and there, dusted off her father’s military portrait, Dad looking dashing in his general’s uniform. She sniffled. “I know you would want me to watch over Mom, but sometimes…”

Samantha laid her back against a wall. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with her?”

***

Supreme Inquisitor Abbot, leader of the Cabal, traversed a corridor within an underground base. He wore his hood up, concealing his immortal features. Acolytes walked past. They said not a peep, but their thoughts oozed with trepidation, made audible by his telepathy. They telegraphed their fear, and a genuine one at that, that they felt they were always stepping on eggshells when around Abbot and that one wrong word could spell disaster.

Abbot ignored them and continued down the hallway until he entered his inner sanctum. Flying buttresses held up the roof, while burners lit the pathway that led to the rear. A glass mural of Jesus Christ dominated the back wall, and red light poured through it, illuminating a raised platform that functioned similarly to a pontiff’s dais.

Abbot stepped onto the platform, got on one knee and bowed. The glass mural melted and transformed into a gravity-defying pool of liquid metal.

Abbot looked up and said, “Oh Holy One, what is thy bidding?”

A voice emanated from the pool. Just hearing it forced a chill to travel down Abbot’s spine, for he feared the being on the other side, even more than the acolytes feared him. The voice was pain. It was death. Its mere presence caused the burners to dim.

“America is at a crossroads,” the voice said. “It’s elites, both Democrats and Republicans, ignore the public, who cry out for an end to austerity. In statehouses around the country, talk of secession grows. Few trusts that President Wellman will steer America back to calmer waters, while others feel that America is over. All that is required to turn sentiment into action is a spark; an act so outrages that it will tear this nation asunder.”

Abbot nodded. “What would you have me do, Oh Holy One?”

“The desire to leave is felt most keenly in California.” The black pool swirled. “You will assassinate Governor Brownback and his family.”

Abbot pursed his lips. “And implicate President Wellman in their murders.”

“Yes. Yes. But it must be a dramatic display, one that nobody would mistake as anyone other than the federal government.”

“I will send Inquisitors. They will paint the governor’s mansion in blood.”

“No. You will handle it personally. Show Brownback your power.”

Chapter 3: The Death at The Governor’s Mansion

A week later, Governor Brownback strolled down hallways of the Governor’s Mansion, newly constructed after the old one had been destroyed during the Food Riots of 2025. Many complained about its size. The original was a two-floor dwelling, modest in design, while this one was a massive compound lined by moats and high walls. All this came with a hefty price tag, not easily justified in an era where America was suffering under a depression, but the Governor would here none of that. No price was too small when it came to his family’s safety.

Brownback turned a corner and noted lights coming from the barracks outside. Two hundred men called it home, there to protect him should the populace rebel again. Their presence soothed his otherwise fraught nerves. No one could get him here.

Brownback entered his study and reached for a bottle of scotch on his desk. “TV, on.”

The voice of a newscaster blared behind him. “Ming One, China’s first manned mission to Mars, reached the planet in seventeen days, a new record made possible thanks to Russian-powered antimatter rockets. In other news, the United States’ economy lost another hundred thousand jobs this month, a slight improvement over last month’s job numbers—”

“Change to a different channel,” Brownback said before taking a shot of his whiskey.

“With rumors swirling that the price of wheat is about to rise as much as 130%, protest have erupted in cities across the country. Several governors have hired additional law enforcement personnel, fearful of a repeat of the Food Riots of 2025 that—”

“Television, off,” Brownback said, then gulped down another shot. “America’s economy is a dumpster fire, and people actually expect me to save—”

An explosion roared in the distance. Brownback gazed north. Five Apache helicopters flew overhead. Rockets erupted from missile racks.

“What in God’s name? How can we be under attack? Who would dare—”

The door behind him burst open. Brownback turned and saw his head of security, Tom Harper, as well as several other agents, run in and form a circle around him.

“Governor, get down,” Tom said. He spoke into his wristwatch. “The Governor has been located and secured. Teams, form a defensive perimeter around the complex.”

“What about my wife and kids?” Brownback asked. “Are they alright?”

“Agent Mandy has them. She’s taking them to the basement.” He turned to another agent. “Jerry, manned the window. The rest of you: guard the entrance.”

Jerry bolted to the window and looked out, while the others left the room.

“Who the Hell is attacking us?” Brownback asked. “Who has Apaches?”

“We don’t know yet, governor.” Tom glanced at Jerry. “Agent, what do you see? Is it safe for us to move the governor to the underground bunker?”

“Um… um…” A bright light pierced the windows. “Um, no. Not even close.”

Brownback peeked up, just high enough to see out the window. The light came from a searchlight bolted onto the side of a Blackhawk helicopter.

More Blackhawk helicopters descended and landed on the front lawn. Soldiers in Special Forces uniforms got out and fired on his security detail. Sniper rifles on rooftops went off, but then the Apache helicopters returned fire and silenced them with rockets.

The Special Forces operatives moved forward, using trees, shrubbery, and statues as cover while they unleashed suppressing fire. A rocket launcher blossomed and ejected a missile. An explosion lit up the landscape beyond, as well as the interior of his study.

“Damn, this place is turning into a war zone,” Jerry said. “Where’s the police? SWAT?”

Tom picked